Thanksgiving Perfection – Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge
NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I run away from holidays. Thanksgiving was no exception. Key birder, Mary Wood, and I set out for long empty Pinelands roads which lead past bogs and to ‘the B rig’ (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Smithville.)
Brigantine Forest Trail – Sugar Sand and Pine Duff – on Thanksgiving
Just below Chatsworth (“The Heart of the Pines”) we came upon bogs being plowed and replanted, probably with berries that don’t ripen when all the other cranberries do. Sand has its own beauty, and we were grateful for that, and for wild tracks – one probably coyote, one definitely fox, amidst the sugar sand.
Preparing for new cranberry varieties
Sugar Sand Track
Legendary Haines Pine Island Cranberry Company near Chatsworth
Little did we know that the day’s highlight was just ahead. Against the far shore, on a tiny gin-clear lake, we found not one but four trumpeter swans.
Oler Lake was Swan Lake — see white dots in distance
Mary set up the scope and we spent about a half hour with these dignified beauties.
Trumpeter Swan Families from Internet
Her splendid optics revealed jet black beaks, not a glimmer of yellow lore that would have identified tundra swans. They swam in such unison that the four created one thin wake. One of the three was an immature, the grey of chinchilla fur, and every bit as dignified and splendid as those matures. No ‘ugly ducklings’ here!
We drove between glistening pitch pines, and gleaming blackjack oaks – shrublike oaks that retain their cinnamon-hued leaves until April. Sand softened the roadway, and barely human appeared.
Soon, ‘the Brig’ beckoned, equally shining in Thanksgiving light.
Silence had surrounded us all the way down, and was almost audible in the Refuge. Peace was the order of the day, and impeccable beauty.
Mary and the Mute Swan, near Gull Tower
Mute swans swam singly or in couples, swirling here, circling there — no family groups and no thin wake here. Tiger-orange beaks shouting their presence, identifying this slightly smaller noble member of the swan family.
We were given hundreds of tundra swans, thousands of snow geese. This internet picture will do for you what my camera will not. I have been at the brig when the sky was whitened with snow geese; a blizzard, and every flake a snow goose here for the winter.
We were so warm, we set up and used the scope for great swathes of time, in light jackets, then shirtsleeves.
One of the stars of the day was a solo boat-tailed grackle. These pictures from the Internet give you some idea of their dignity. We could barely tear ourselves away from this heroic bird.
His breast was awash in every tone of blue on black the color of wet jet. Each minuscule movement created aurora-borealis-like shiftings and glowing along that dark expanse. Behind him shimmered limitless reaches of impoundments of varying salinities, peppered with black ducks and Northern pintails, shovelers and mallards beyond counting.
A walk in a forest brought glorious oversized leaves, cushiony pine needles everywhere, light slicing through woods, and adorable yellow-rumped warblers.
Yellow-rumped warbler from Internet
Oversized Oak Leaf, Brigantine Pine Forest
Even the mud was beautiful!
Mud near Leeds Eco-Trail
We had jokingly gone to the Brig to find the hot-line-reported scissor-tailed flycatcher. I’d seen one at Sandy Hook, one at Cape May, in my entire life. We did see and hear some unusual birds in shrubs and deciduous trees along the impoundments. Here’s what we should have found, but were unable to discover.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher from Internet
Day’s Stars – Trumpeter Swans from Internet
The monarchs of this kingdom proved to be those trumpeter swans — not only hither and yon throughout Brig waters, in small trim family groups. But also, at the end, the pond where we’d hoped for buffleheads, two coursing overhead in silent flight, and yet we could hear the air passing through those solid, stately wings.
Trumpeter Swans from Internet
Running away from holidays holds so many miracles. It was almost a day without turkeys, until Mary spotted a few stately, dark and noble gobblers scurrying through a remote stretch of those legendary, eponymous Pines. O, and come to think of it, we began the day in the cranberry bogs!
I will say again, a plethora of pipelines is poised to puncture the Pinelands. Highly flammable fuels will roar through those pipes, threatening not only that highly flammable forest, but also the sacred Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer of 17 trillion gallons of the healthiest water in America. Pipeline people insist that citizens have no choice. Wherever you are, prove the Pipeline people wrong! Write editors. Protest. Put up Signs. Write Congresspeople. Pipeline people have no concept of HABITAT!